International Law Doesn't Condone Planned U.S. Intervention in Syrian Civil War

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Posted Sept. 4, 2013

Interview with Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, conducted by Scott Harris


Not long after President Obama spoke to the nation about his intention to launch air strikes against Syria’s military in response to Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons resulting in mass civilian casualties, the imminent attack was delayed in order to seek authorization from Congress. The abrupt change was necessitated in part by the defeat of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s effort seeking approval from Parliament to join the Americans in future military intervention in Syria.

Longtime U.S. ally Britain's surprising rejection of the proposed attack, the defeat of a similar measure in the Arab League – and the all but certain lack of support in the United Nation’s Security Council, forced the Obama administration to seek legitimacy through congressional authorization, amidst the palpable skepticism of a war-weary public.

Although the administration has received limited support for its planned attack on Syria from France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf monarchies, any U.S. military intervention in Syria would be illegal under international law. The United Nations charter prohibits nations from attacking one another unless the action is undertaken in self-defense or has the approval from the U.N. Security Council. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of a dozen books on the law and U.S foreign policy. He examines the veracity of the Obama administration's assertion that the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people justifies an American military attack based on national security and humanitarian grounds.

Francis Boyle is author of a dozen books on the law and U.S. foreign policy. For additional commentary on the Syrian crisis and international law, visit his Z-Space page at

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